Martin Shkreli, a former CEO who became infamous in 2015 for hiking the price of niche drug Daraprim by over 5,000 percent, has become the poster child for greed in the pharmaceutical industry. But he’s not having any of it, firing back at the very industry and singling out other alleged offenders.
He recently launched a new website called “Pharma Skeletons,” which details cases of big pharma firms making staggering price hikes. He cites major drug manufacturers such as Allergan, AbbVie, Novo Nordisk, and Merck, and leaves his brand of searing commentary on the site.
Shkreli Vs PhRMA
“Stephen Ubl, don’t you dare point your finger at me for the pharmaceutical industry’s troubles. It turns out we’ve all made some unpopular moves,” Shkreli wrote on the site, referring to the CEO of drug lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
Here’s the likely trigger. Last Monday, PhRMA launched a big new PR campaign, which Ubl specifically noted during a media briefing as being about having “less hoodie, more lab coats.” It was an obvious reference to Shkreli, who can be remembered as wearing a hooded sweatshirt when he was arrested in 2015 on charges of securities fraud.
The 33-year-old former biopharma executive apparently did not take it well, coming to his own defense through his website. His previous company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, had also been thrown out by PhRMA after the notorious drug price hike.
Turing is a small firm researching medicine for rare conditions “that no one else wants to,” Shkreli said, adding that PhRMA’s member companies — except “a few humorous” ones — maintain billions of dollars and would not need price increases like Turing did.
He deemed it foolish to be “[thrown] under the bus” by the pharma industry, citing that their member CEOs would not compare to his scientific know-how, wealth, or entrepreneurial achievements.
Jacked-Up Drug Prices
Shkreli, adding he took a very low or zero salary at his companies compared to PhRMA CEOs’ big paychecks from alleged price hikes, offered specific examples. Drug company Biogen, he said, built an enterprise around price increases, raising the price of an unpopular multiple sclerosis drug 21 times and earning billions annually.
Its new drug Spinraza, Shkreli went further, is listed to cost $750,000 for a year’s worth for the rare disorder spinal muscular atrophy, followed by $375,000 for every year afterwards.
The “Pharma bro” has listed out 26 companies so far on the website.
Shkreli made headlines when he increased the price of the antiparasitic drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine) by over 5,000 percent after buying Turing, raising it from $13.50 to $ 750 per tablet.
The 62-year-old drug is included in WHO’s list of essential medicines, considered useful for treating certain kinds of malaria and toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a rare, potentially deadly infection resulting from the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which affects those with a weakened immune system such as persons with HIV.
Late last year, Australian high school students produced the same drug in their own school laboratory for a mere $2.
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